Maria de Montserrat Viviana Concepción Caballé i Folch OIC OAXS OMFRG LH OMIR(Catalan: [munsəˈrat kəβəˈʎe]; 12 April 1933 – 6 October 2018) was a Spanish operatic soprano. She sang a wide variety of roles, but is best known as an exponent of the works of Verdiand of the bel canto repertoire, notably the works of Rossini, Bellini, and Donizetti. She was noticed internationally when she stepped in for a performance of Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia at Carnegie Hallin 1965, and then appeared at leading opera houses. Her voice was described as pure but powerful, with superb control of vocal shadings and exquisite pianissimo.
Caballé became popular to non-classical music audiences in 1987, when she recorded, at the request of the IOC, "Barcelona", a duet with Freddie Mercury, which became an official theme song for the 1992 Olympic Games. She received several international awards and also Grammy Awardsfor a number of her recordings.
Early life and career
Caballé was born in Barcelonaon 12 April 1933.Her family was of humble financial circumstances.She studied music at the Liceu Conservatory, and singing technique with Napoleone Annovazzi, Eugenia Kemény and Conchita Badía. She graduated with a gold medal in 1954. She subsequently moved to Basel, Switzerland, where she made her professional debut in 1956 as Mimì in Puccini's La bohème. She became part of the Basel Operacompany between 1957 and 1959, singing a repertoire that included Mozart (Erste Dame in Die Zauberflöte) and Strauss (Salome) in German, unusual for Spanish singers, but which proved useful for her next engagement at the Bremen Opera(1959–1962). In 1961, she starred as Iphigénie in Gluck's Iphigénie en Taurideat the National Theatre of S. Carlosin Lisbon, alongside Raymond Wolansky, Jean Cox, Paul Schöfflerand others.
In 1962, Caballé returned to Barcelona and debuted at the Liceu, singing the title role in Strauss's Arabella. From the fall of 1962 through the spring of 1963 she toured Mexico, at one point singing the title role in Massenet's Manonat the Palacio de Bellas Artes. This was followed by several more successful appearances at the Liceuin 1963.
Caballé's international breakthrough came in 1965 when she replaced an indisposed Marilyn Hornein a semi-staged performance of Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgiaat New York's Carnegie Hall, which earned her a 25-minute standing ovation. While this was her first engagement in a bel canto opera and she had to learn the role in less than one month, her performance made her famous throughout the opera world. Later that year, Caballé made her debut at the Glyndebourne Festivalsinging her first Marschallin in Richard Strauss' Der Rosenkavalierand portraying the role of Countess Almaviva in Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro.
In December 1965, she returned to Carnegie Hall for her second bel canto opera, singing the role of Queen Elizabeth Iin Donizetti's recently rediscovered Roberto Devereux. Caballé closed out the year with her Metropolitan Operadebut on 22 December 1965, appearing as Marguerite in Gounod's Faustalongside John Alexanderin the title role, Justino Díazas Méphistophélès, and Sherrill Milnesas Valentin in his debut at the Met.
In 1966, Caballé made her first appearance with the Philadelphia Lyric Opera Companyas Maddalena di Coigny in Giordano's Andrea Chénierand her Italian debut at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentinoas Leonora in Verdi's Il trovatore, followed by Bellini's Il piratain 1967. She returned to Philadelphia in 1967 to sing the title roles in Puccini's Toscaand Madama Butterfly,and to the Met to sing three Verdi heroines: Leonora alongside Richard Tuckeras Manrico, Desdemona in Otellowith James McCrackenin the title role, and Violetta in La traviata, with Tucker and George Shirleyalternating as Alfredo.The last role in particular garnered her further acclaim among American critics and audiences.She returned to the Met the following year in the title role in Verdi's Luisa Miller, and in 1969 for the role of Liù in Puccini's Turandot, with Birgit Nilssonin the title role and James Kingas Calàf.She also returned to Philadelphia as Imogene in Bellini's Il pirata(1968) and Lucrezia Borgia (1969).
In 1969, Caballé appeared at the Arena di Veronain a Jean Vilarproduction of Verdi's Don Carlo. She was Elisabetta of Valois in an all-star cast including Plácido Domingoand Piero Cappuccilli. Her high B on the final "ciel" at the end of the opera lasted more than 20 bars up to the final chord from the orchestra. In these performances she had to act on crutches because of an accident earlier that year in New York City. In the same period she also appeared in recital at the Teatro Corallo in Verona. In 1970, Caballé made her official debut at La Scalain the title role of Lucrezia Borgia. She appeared as Leonora in Philadelphia,and returned to the Met as Amelia in a critically acclaimed production of Verdi's Un ballo in mascherawith Domingo as Riccardo, and Reri Gristas Oscar.
In 1972, she made her first appearances at Covent Gardenand the Lyric Opera of Chicago, both in the role of Violetta.That same year she returned to the Met as Elisabetta in Don Carlowith Franco Corelliin the title role, and sang the title role of Bellini's Normain Philadelphia.In 1973 she returned to Chicago to perform the title role in Donizetti's Maria Stuardawith Viorica Cortez, appeared as Violetta in Philadelphia.She performed at the Met as Bellini's Norma, opposite Carlo Cossuttain his Met debut as Pollione and Fiorenza Cossottoas Adalgisa.
In 1974, Caballé appeared in the title role of Verdi's Aidaat the Liceu in January, in Verdi's I vespri sicilianiat the Met in March,and in Parisina d'Esteat Carnegie Hall, also in March. She appeared as Norma at the Bolshoi Theatrein Moscow and in Adriana Lecouvreurat La Scala in April. She was filmed as Norma in Orangein July by Pierre Jourdain. She recorded Aidawith Riccardo Mutiin July and made a recording of duets with Giuseppe Di Stefanoin August. In September 1974, she underwent major surgery to remove a large benign mass from her abdomen. She recovered and was performing again on stage by early 1975. In 1976 Caballé appeared at the Met once again as Norma and sang her first Aida in that house, alongside Robert Nagyas Radamès and Marilyn Horne as Amneris. She appeared in the title role of Ariadne auf Naxosby Richard Strauss and sang Mimì in Puccini's La bohèmewith Luciano Pavarottias Rodolfo.
In 1977 Caballé made her debut with the San Francisco Operain the title role of Puccini's Turandot. She returned to that house ten more times over the next decade in such roles as Elvira in Verdi's Ernaniand the title roles in Ponchielli's La Gioconda, Rossini's Semiramide, and Puccini's Tosca, among others.
Having lost some of her earlier brilliance and purity of voice, Caballé offered more dramatic expressive singing in roles that demanded it. In 1978, she was Tosca in San Francisco with Pavarotti, Norma in Madrid, and Adriana Lecouvreur at the Met opposite Carreras. She continued to appear often at the Met during the 1980s, in roles such as Tosca (1980, 1985) and Elisabetta (1985), and also sang concerts in 1981 and 1983. Her final performance at the Met was on 10 October 1985 in Toscawith Pavarotti as Cavaradossi and Cornell MacNeilas Scarpia.
Her voice was noted for its purity, precise control, and power. She was admired less for her dramatic instincts and acting skills than for her superb technique, vocal shadings, and exquisite pianissimos, which were inspired by Miguel Fleta.
in Bellini's Norma, Caballé recorded both the title role (for RCA Red Sealin 1972, with Domingo as Pollione) and later the role of Adalgisa, to Joan Sutherland's Norma in a 1984 Deccarecording conducted by Richard Bonynge. Although Bellini conceived the role of Adalgisa originally for a soprano, it is usually now sung by a mezzo-soprano. Caballé was one of few sopranos to have recorded the role, although she was over 50 years old at the time of the recording in 1984.
In 1987, Caballé made a rare excursion into the world of pop music when she released a duet with Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of the rock band Queen, which was titled "Barcelona".The song was inspired by Caballé's home city and later used as one of the two official theme songs for the 1992 Olympic Games.Mercury was a great admirer of Caballé, considering her voice to be "the best in the world".The single was followed by an album of the same namewhich was released the following year and featured further collaborations between the two performers. The title track later became the anthem of the 1992 Summer Olympicswhich was hosted by Caballé's native city, and appeared again in the pop music charts throughout Europe. Caballé also performed the song live, accompanied by a recording by Mercury, who had died in 1991, before the 1999 UEFA Champions Leaguefootball final in Barcelona's Camp Noustadium.
In 1994, writing for The Independent, Fiammetta Rocco said: "Caballe is one of the last of the true divas. Callas is dead, Kiri Te Kanawais busy making commercials for Sainsbury's, and Mirella Frenihas never really risen out of the narrow confines of being an opera lover's opera-singer. Caballe, on the other hand, has always had an enormous following, and it's still with her today."
In 1995 she worked with Vangelisfor his album El Greco, dedicated to the Greek painter. In 1997, Mike Moranproduced the album Friends For Life, which includes duets with Caballé and such singers as Bruce Dickinson, Johnny Hallyday, Johnny Logan, Gino Vannelli, and Helmut Lotti.
Caballé dedicated herself to various charities. She was a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassadorand established a foundation for needy children in Barcelona. In 2003, she starred in her own documentary film Caballé: Beyond Music, which featured many well-known opera singers, including Domingo, Pavarotti, Carreras, and Renée Fleming.
In 2002, she appeared as Catherine of Aragon in Henri VIIIby Saint-Saëns, and in 2004 in the title role of Massenet's Cléopâtre, both at the Liceu. She appeared as The Duchess of Crakenthorp in Donizetti's La fille du régimentat the Vienna State Operain April 2007.
In 2003, Patrick O'Connor wrote in Gramophonethat
no diva in memory has sung such an all-encompassing amount of the soprano repertory, progressing through virtually the entire range of Italian light lyric, lirico-spintoand dramatic roles, including all the pinnacles of the bel canto, Verdi and verismo repertories, whilst simultaneously being a remarkable interpreter of Salome, Sieglinde and Isolde.
On 6 June 2013, Caballé was declared persona non gratain Azerbaijanafter visiting, despite official warnings issued by the Azerbaijani embassy in Spain, the de facto independent state Nagorno-Karabakhand meeting with local leaders.
In 2015 Caballé was under prosecution over allegations of tax evasion or fraud.She admitted that despite living in Spain in 2010, she had registered in Andorrain order to avoid paying tax in Spain. In December 2015 the Spanish court found her guilty of fraud and gave her a six-month suspended jail sentence, ordering her to pay a fine of €254,231 ($280,000). She was also banned from receiving any public subsidies for a period of 18 months.
Caballé married Spanish tenor Bernabé Martíin 1964.They had two children; their daughter Montserrat Martíis also an operatic soprano.
Health problems and death
On 20 October 2012, during her tour in Russia, Caballé suffered a strokein Yekaterinburgand was quickly transferred to Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pauin Barcelona.In September 2018, she was admitted to the same hospital,where she died on 6 October 2018 at the age of 85 from a gallbladderinfection.
Caballé recorded extensively throughout her long career and made many notable recordings of complete operas as well as recital albums. After a number of recordings early in her career for RCA Victor Red Seal, Caballé also recorded for EMI, Decca, and Philipsamong other labels.She left a "vast discography" of her major roles, including Aida, conducted by Riccardo Muti, Elisabetta in Don Carloconducted by Carlo Maria Giulini, Fiordiligi in Mozart's Così fan tuttewith Colin Davis, Liù in Turandotalongside Joan Sutherland and Domingo, conducted by Zubin Mehta, and Salome with Erich Leinsdorf. She recorded many bel canto and Rossini roles. Recital recordings include a Puccini collection with Charles Mackerras, a Strauss collection with Leonard Bernstein, and duets with Shirley Verrett. She performed the soprano solo in Verdi's Requiemwith John Barbirolli.
Honours and awards
Of Caballé's recordings, several won a Grammy Award: Rossini Raritiesin 1966, Puccini's La bohèmein 1968, and Mozart's Così fan tuttein 1974; other recordings were nominated for the award.
- 1966: Dame Commander of the Order of Isabella the Catholic
- 1975: Civil Order of Alfonso X, the Wise
- 1996: RSH-Gold (de)in the category "Classic LP of the Year" (Barcelona)
- 2003: Großes Bundesverdienstkreuz(Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany)
- 2005: Legion of Honour
- 2007: Appointed Kammersängerinof the Vienna State Opera
- 2008: Honoris Causadoctorate from the Universidad Internacional Menéndez Pelayoin Santander
- 2009: Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republicby the President of Italy
- 2011: Honoris causadoctorate of the University of Barcelona